At this point for me, Tuska has become a second festival home. It has the right feel in terms of scope of bands, location, weather, and lastly: friends. This year was jam packed with all sorts of stuff I wanted to see. Many of the bands I had seen before, but maybe it has been many years — or perhaps it was a special show. As is custom, my friends and I chowed down on our ‘breakfast pizza’ — which consists of eating an entire pizza each day before heading to the festival as it would be our only food the entire day most likely.
I rarely finish my whole pizza.
Friday would be the most packed for me. No breaks at all — I wanted to see everything on the two main stages. While I wanted to check out some stuff on the smaller stage, it just wasn’t possible this time around.
First up was Cattle Decapitation. I haven’t kept up with them in many years and only know the first few albums. However, I’ve never had a chance to see them live. They were fierce and gathered a small, yet rabid, group of people. Honestly, a nice intense set to get things started off on the right foot.
Delain was next, and oddly enough had never played Finland before apparently. I always enjoy Charlotte’s intensity in the performance and the rest of the band give it their all as well. While their show was great, I think my love for this style of metal tapered off years ago and I just don’t enjoy it quite as much anymore. But Delain always gives it 100% and they should be commended for that and their obvious adoration of their fans.
Swallow the Sun needs absolutely no introduction in Finland, or at Tuska. This year was originally going to be ‘special’ because they were going to play the entire ‘Songs from the North’ album over the three day span. However, it became even more special and emotional with the passing of Aleah Stanbridge, lead guitarist’s Juha Raivio life partner. She has appeared in many of the band’s videos as well as the cover of the new album itself. My thoughts are with everyone in the band as I know this has affected all of them.
The show itself, on Day 1, was the first piece of the album. It is the most ‘typical’ Swallow the Sun sounding pieces. While the other two are drastically different. The band played in some of the harshest light of the festival — in fact I ended up getting sun burned during their set. A first for me in Finland!
Next was Cain’s Offering — also known to me as Strato Arctica. It features members of Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica, some current and some present. These days I find Cain’s Offering to be stronger than either of the two bands, at least in terms of new material. Stratovarius has had some good material the past few years, but Stratovarius always feels a bit ‘off’ live. And Sonata Arctica — I really don’t like anything after Unia. However, Cain’s Offering has put out two fantastic power metal albums in the same vein as the glory days of their other two bands. Timo Kotipelto leads the charge — and the rest of the band takes flight into some cheesy happy power metally goodness.
Lordi was up next — and was a band that I was introduced to probably 14 or so years ago. I certainly haven’t kept up with them other than their Eurovision win many years ago. While I like the costumes and themes — the music is too ‘generic rock’ sounding for me. I do enjoy some songs here and there and they are certainly a fun band. I think the fans of the band were super excited to see them — and the crowd was packed for them!
Norway’s Kvelertak was a band that I have known about for many years. I’ve always loved their artwork — but somehow the music just never worked for me. But their fog flooded show was fantastic and immediately made me a fan. I’m slowly working my way through their catalogue, but the intensity and the energy of the set blew me away.
At this point, I think I’ve seen Testament 3 times at Tuska and 3 or 4 times in the USA. I always end up watching the whole set — even to this day. Why? They’re always on point and their energy and love of what they do makes everyone happy. They always make you feel like they would love to just jump into the crowd themselves and play if they could. I’m sure we’ll see them again at Tuska — and I welcome it!
Behemoth had already played a show back in the USA — and even though it was part of ‘The Satanist’ tour, it wasn’t the album in full. For a string of shows this summer, they’ll be playing ‘The Satanist’ in its entirety. It’s not often that a band with an established catalogue can really say their new album is their best thing to date, but I would say that this is an exception to that rule. This was something I welcomed. And let’s just put it this way — saying they decimated the stage is an understatement. It was one of the best performances of this Tuska and many others. The only thing I really wish was that there were a little less in the way of strobe lights. But that’s just a minor complaint.
Last show of the night boys and girls! The brainchild of Tobias Sammet — Avantasia! This is a project that I bought into on the day the first album debuted. I had already been listening to Edguy for years and this Avantasia thing was promised to be epic as hell. And it was. Over the years, Edguy has went in a more rock direction while Avantasia has still kept a lot of those early Edguy qualities intact as well as pull in some rock ‘style’. In addition, it pulls some of the most fantastic power metal/aor vocalists out into the forefront. I never thought I’d get to see Michael Kiske perform live — yet here it was. I was lucky enough to fly to NYC earlier in the year to see Avantasia perform as well — shout-out to Infinity Concerts for making that happen! Jorn and Ronny Atkins are two other favourites that I was able to see and as always they don’t disappoint. But seeing Kiske and Sammet duet was one of the most spectacular things to watch and listen to — and will remain one of my favourite memories of a show forever.
I was pretty wiped out from the first day, and although I had originally intended to catch Brymir — I needed to conserve energy and pace myself to make it through the rest of the fest. Forty pounds of camera equipment will wear you out after a few hours for sure.
One of the bands I had really been looking forward to seeing again was Ireland’s Primordial. I’ve only seen them once before and that was at ProgPower USA many years ago. Sunlight doesn’t seem like frontman A.A. Nemtheanga’s preferred time of day for a performance — but the band brought all the darkness they needed. Nemtheanga’s main goal always seems to be to force everyone to feel the suffering that the Irish have endured over the centuries. Anyone who has spent any time reading through the lyrics or paid attention to what he says between songs will echo that sentiment as well. Once again — a spectacular set. One of the better sets at Tuska for sure — and I really hope they come back sooner rather than later. If I could conduct the weather — I’d make it a rainy, late sunset on the cusp of darkness, and cold. That’s the weather I’d want to see these guys proper.
Next up was Tsjuder — a band I still struggle with pronouncing. The band sticks to the tried and true sound established by bands such as Darkthrone and Immortal, but I haven’t spent enough time listening to them to give a good indication beyond that. Either way, their sound and light show was fantastic. I don’t want too much light in a black metal show — some might argue none at all. But they got it just right.
Native stalwarts Turmion Kätilöt are a regular at Tuska — either at the main show or at one of the after parties. Relatively unknown beyond Finland, they were described to me early on as a Finnish Rammstein. However, I’d argue that they’re quite a bit more fun, less serious, and extremely dancey. You know you’re going to have a great time with these guys — and their 2013 album ‘Technodiktator’ was one of my favourites of that year! Highly recommended if you don’t take things too seriously.
Omnium Gatherum followed Turmion Kätilöt on the tent stage. A melo-death band reminiscent of the Gothenburg scene from the 90’s with a tinge of Suomi. Their album, ‘Beyond’ can easily be put up against anything from the Gothenburg scene in the past — and certainly can today. They’re always fun to watch and provided a nice injection of a now under-represented genre.
Next up, Germany’s Obscura. One of the upper echelon on the Tech Death ladder, they don’t have much energy in a show and instead focus intently on the execution of their music. I think that’s pretty understandable given the complexity of what they’re playing. I enjoyed the show — but I was not in awe. I think that for someone who isn’t a musician, a performance can really drive the show home and it just lacks that.
I had an opportunity to go see Swallow the Sun perform the second part of their album. It was intense. People were in tears — no doubt in part due to how meaningful the experience was for everyone involved, and for those no longer with us. It was closed to the public, and while I have photos from the show, I’ve kept them private for now and will let the band decide how they would want to have them presented.
Next up was Anthrax. I can’t really say this band needs any introduction. Much like Testament, you know what you’re going to get. They’ve been doing this for years and have it down to a science. If you like Anthrax — you’ll like Anthrax.
Approaching the end of the night, Finland’s Stam1na was up to bat. I admit that the first time I saw these guys years ago — they were completely unknown to me. They’re somewhere between a Thrash band, a Punk band, and a tinge of early Power Metal with a modern production. And they’re just a load of fun and energy. They will win anyone over, even if you can’t understand what they’re singing about! Last time they dressed in beach-ware — and this time it was prison jumpsuits. Recommended!
Sweden’s Ghost needs no introduction at all at this point. This band rose to fame so fast that it would make most peoples heads spin. They’ve become so well known that they’ve appeared on non-metal festivals, on prime time TV, etc. Their catchy songs can’t be denied — and their stage show has been upped tenfold since the last time I was able to see them. I know they take a lot of heat from the die hards out there, but sometimes you just need to kick back and have some fun.
After leaving some equipment at the apartment by accident, I took a taxi back to down to festival grounds right in time to catch Denmark’s Myrkur.
Myrkur is essentially a one-woman band. She’s taken a lot of flak over the past year or so that her album has been out, but I don’t really understand why. She’s being true to all the tennants that I see in black metal. Is it just because she’s a woman who isn’t in corpse paint? Her live show was heavy and unique. Her double mic setup was really awesome to just look at as they sat atop limbs of a tree. I look forward to seeing her progress and I hope the naysayers eventually silence.
For me, I finally had a break. I skipped on Hatebreed because they have certainly never been my thing. I used this time to hang out with my friends who I had rarely seen the entire festival.
Most of us headed to the tent stage again to see Diablo. Another relatively unknown band outside of Finland, but yet another jewel in its crown. Their brand of melo-death is not too far off from the Gothenburg sound either. They had been in relative silence since 2010 — but when they popped up on the Tuska lineup I was totally stoked to see them again. Never a dull moment with these guys!
A band that needs no introduction, France’s groovy Gojira was up. This was obviously a band that people had been looking forward to. Headliners not withstanding, I haven’t seen a crowd that packed at Tuska in a very long time. The crowd ate it up, and the energy of Gojira was palpable.
Sweden’s Katatonia was up next. Katatonia has just released ‘The Fall of Hearts’ and still played a varied amount of material from ‘Viva Emptiness’ onward with a two or three ‘old songs.’ My energy was waning at this point, but these guys are one of my favourites so I definitely stuck it out for them. I expected a larger crowd in the tent for these guys, but I think they tour so often that some took the opportunity to take a break or see something on the small club stage.
Last ride of the festival! Children of Bodom. I’m happy that these guys have had so much success over the years — but musically I haven’t cared for them since ‘Hate Crew Deathroll’. I still love all of their old material and I’m glad they still include it in their sets. However, I saw them only a few months before and the rest of my posse were wiped out. We made a group decision to leave a little early and spend time together since many would be leaving the next morning — myself included.
And with that — another Tuska has concluded. I look forward to 2017! I have a few guesses as to who might be playing — but we’ll see if I’m correct. Tuska is a perfectly executed festival to the crowd. I don’t know how it is for those that work the festival, but the festival is nearing the 20 year mark and the amount of bands, scheduling, food options, everything really — it’s all top notch. Larger festivals suffer from the problem of too much going on and missing out — but Tuska somehow manages to keep this at a bare minimum. I love this festival and I’m hoping for even better things for Tuska in the future!